This $11 Drugstore Product Is Steph’s Absolute Favorite Retinol

It’s a dermatological-strength retinoid, and you can buy it without a prescription.

Ask just about any dermatologist about the single most effective way to prevent and correct signs of premature aging, and they’ll tell you: sunscreen. Ask them about the second most effective way, and they’ll no doubt point you toward retinol. 

A quick refresher on retinol: It’s a type of retinoid, the umbrella term for vitamin A derivatives that also include a form of the ingredient called “retinaldehyde.” The prescription-strength version is called tretinoin and found in products like Retin-A. Then there’s adapalene, a synthetic retinoid that can be found in a product called Differin, in both a prescription-strength 0.3 percent version and a milder over-the-counter 0.1 percent version. The latter is my absolute favorite.

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Prescription Strength Retinoid Acne Treatment, $11.19, available here.

A quick disclaimer that like with any retinol, there may be a bit of an adjustment period when you first start using this formula – so if you’re new to the ingredient altogether, expect a bit of peeling or redness if you have sensitive skin (I don’t and never experienced either). And because retinol can make skin hyper-sensitive to sun exposure, I direct you back to the first line of this post for a reminder to always! wear! sunscreen! dammit!

TL;DR: Retinoids are the most potent anti-agers you can buy, and there is only one derm-strength version you can buy without a prescription: Differn’s 0.1 percent gel. I’m a big fan of it.

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Prescription Strength Retinoid Acne Treatment, $11.19, available here.

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